Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How to Avoid Pinterest Wedding Angst”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How to Avoid Pinterest Wedding Angst”

How to Avoid Pinterest Wedding Angst

Posted: 08 May 2012 04:56 AM PDT

So, the initial glow of engagement has worn off. Maybe that’s because you started discussing wedding budgets, guest lists and catering options. To make matters worse, you’re starting to view Pinterest not as a frilly paradise of inspiration, but as a barrage of nuptial media.

Step back from the edge, my friend, and consider our suggestions below. They'll help put a little fun back in the process, and maybe even save your sanity.

If you’ve been holding back from Pinterest, fear not. It’s a great place to share ideas with your family and friends, and our tips can help you avoid pantone-color-swatch-tulle-induced madness.

SEE ALSO: 10 of the Weirdest Pins on Pinterest

And remember, social media should improve your life, not give you one more thing to obsess over. Committing the rest of your life to someone is stressful enough.

1. Cull Your Following List

No, you do not need to follow every old high school Facebook acquaintance who repinned your bouquet idea. If you do, you’ll end up with 50 of the same repins in your feed, or a million pins from boards you have absolutely no interest in.

If you’re still in the general idea phase, stick with people or brands that post a variety of content, and that are reliable. Or subscribe to individual boards — if all you need are table settings, you can skip the wedding dresses board altogether. The goal here is to tame the flood of information so you’re inspired, not overwhelmed.

2. Go Beyond Pinterest

Pinterest is arguably more useful as a place to store your ideas, rather than a place to generate them. With the “Pin It” browser extension, you can go directly to a site you know you're interested in, bypassing Pinterest’s clumsy search function. After you’ve visited a site, check whether your favorite blogger or brand is on Pinterest and add them to your selective follow list.

3. Split Up Your Boards

If you’re using Pinterest as a way to store images and ideas for future reference, you’re going to want to be able to find them again later. Splitting up your boards is a great way to help with this. Instead of a general “wedding” board, trying having separate ones for different facets: table decorations, dresses, cake, invitations, flowers, etc. This will also come in handy when you want to share your bouquet ideas with a florist (or your grandma), your hairstyle options with your mom, or bridesmaid dresses with your sister.

4. Keep It in Context

Like any tool, the goal of Pinterest is to help you out, not make you crazy. Step away from the pinboards, if that’s what you need. Or quit following a user who only pins options outside your budget or taste. Remember, creativity comes from constraints — no need to torture yourself with budget-busting chair covers.

Take a moment to define your purpose in using Pinterest for wedding planning, and if you start veering from that, reel yourself back in. The real goal of wedding planning is to get married, however you choose to accomplish that. Pinboards are optional.

Got more tips for wedding planning sanity, Pinterest-related or otherwise? Share ‘em in the comments.

1. A Practical Wedding

Come for the pretty photos from real weddings. Stay for the blog run by Meg Keene, which features helpful advice from Team Practical on Fridays. It's particularly useful for non-traditional wedding suggestions.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Brasil2

More About: features, lifestyle, pinterest, Social Media

Mobile Set to Surpass Desktop Sales at Some Flash Sales Sites

Posted: 08 May 2012 04:30 AM PDT


Mobile is becoming an increasingly significant sales channel for many online retailers, particularly for those who sell merchandise through flash sales.

Mobile sales recently accounted for more than 50% of a day’s sales on Rue La La, a 6 million-member website that offers limited-time discounts on a range of goods and services in popular categories including fashion, home and travel.

Steve Davis, President of Rue La La, says that mobile sales have been rapidly and steadily accelerating as the company has aggressively promoted and upgraded its apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, as well as its mobile-optimized site. A year ago, mobile devices were responsible for just a tenth of sales.

Other flash sales sites are also seeing growth. Mobile devices account for nearly 25% of revenue during the week and 30% on the weekends for Gilt, up from 15% a year ago. Twenty percent of all sales for Gilt City take place through its mobile app, double what it was a year ago, Christopher Gonzalez, director of mobile product at Gilt.com, tells Mashable.

Approximately 40% of shoppers visit design goods-focused site Fab.com through the retailer’s apps for iOS and Android devices. Although Fab.com refused to disclose what percentage of sales come from mobile, a company spokesperson did say that mobile revenue per week doubled in the first quarter of this year, and that mobile shoppers made purchase decisions in half the amount of time as desktop shoppers and bought more often.

It makes sense that flash sales sites are seeing the mobile boom ahead of other kinds of online retailers. Merchandise frequently sells out in minutes at sites such as Rue La La, Fab.com and Gilt. In response, consumers frequently log on to those sites as soon as their sales go live each day. If they’re not at their desks, they’re firing up their mobile devices. I suspect that many are also using personal mobile devices at their desk to hide their browsing and purchasing behaviors from their colleagues and superiors.

Flash retailers also observed some interesting trends across devices. About 60% of Rue La La’s mobile sales are made on iPhones, followed by iPads (30%), and Android phones and tablets (10%). Fab.com found that iPad users are more valuable: although only 15% of Fab.com’s members have browsed the site with an iPad, those customers are expected to generate 25% of the company’s revenue over the next two years. iPad traffic tends to peak in the evening, Gilt.com notes. Both Rue La La and Gilt noted that weekends are especially popular for mobile because shoppers are less likely to be in front of a desktop computer.

Davis also pointed to the rise of “multiscreen customers.” Members who access Rue La La on desktops, mobile and iPad devices are 540% more likely to purchase than a member that only shops on the desktop version of the website. Similarly, Gilt.com found that customers who shop on both desktops and mobile devices spend four times as much on average than customers who only shop on the full site.

How much more can mobile sales grow? Davis says he expects mobile will begin to bring in more sales for Rue La La than desktops by Christmas-time, accounting for somewhere between 50% to 70% sales on the weekends, and between 50% and 60% on the weekdays. The forecasts for other flash sales may be more modest, but the trend is still up.

More About: ecommerce, Fab.com, gilt, mcommerce, Mobile, retail, rue la la

For more Business coverage:

Today’s Top Stories: Yahoo CEO Apologizes for Botched Bio, Toshiba Posts $899 Million Profit

Posted: 08 May 2012 04:24 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Yahoo CEO Apologizes for Fake Info in His Biography

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has issued a memo to all Yahoo employees, apologizing for the fake science degree in his biography.

“As I told you on Friday, the board is reviewing the issue and I will provide whatever they need from me. In the meantime, I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you,” said Thompson in the memo, without giving any clarification on how the fake information ended up in his biography.

Toshiba Posts $899 Million Profit for 2011

Toshiba has revealed its consolidated 2011 and Q4 2011 financial results, posting a 73.7 billion yen ($899 million) profit on net sales of 6,100 billion yen ($74.4 billion) for the year. This is a significant drop from the $1.7 billion the company has made in 2010; Toshiba blames the European debt crisis and the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake for the lower results.

Jury Issues Partial Verdict in Google-Oracle Trial

Although a federal jury found that Google infringed on Oracle’s Java-related patents, some questions still remain unanswered. Most importantly, the jury was unable to determine whether Google’s use of Java constituted "fair use."

Now, both sides want further clarification and actions from the judge: Google has motioned for a mistrial, and Oracle has motioned for the presiding judge to issue his own verdict. The judge will make his ruling on both matters later in the week.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: features, first to know series, Google, mashable, oracle, Toshiba, Yahoo

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Google’s Self-Driving Car Gets a License in Nevada

Posted: 08 May 2012 02:20 AM PDT

The state of Nevada has issued a first license for one of Google’s self-driving cars — provided there are two people inside the car at all times, the Associated Press reports.

Nevada’s DMV has issued the license after conducting demonstrations that the car is safe for testing on public streets.

Google’s self-driving cars use a laser radar on the roof of the vehicle to detect obstacles, pedestrians and other cars. With the help of GPS and a bit of artificial intelligence, the car can drive itself with very little or no intervention from the human sitting inside.

That said, Nevada’s regulations require two people in the test cars: one in the driver’s seat, and other monitoring a computer screen that shows the car’s planned route as well as traffic lights and other potential hazards on the road.

As soon as the “driver” touches the brake or the wheel, he takes control of the vehicle.

We had a chance to test out one of Google’s self-driving cars in March 2011, and the results were good: no glitches, no unwanted close encounters with walls or other obstacles.

However, in August 2011 one of Google’s cars caused an accident on the road.

What are your thoughts on self-driving cars? Are they the future of transportation or an accident waiting to happen? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Google, nevada, self-driving car, trending

For more Tech coverage:

High Tech, High Fashion: Clothes Hangers Show Real-Time Facebook Likes [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 May 2012 01:53 AM PDT

Do you love to shop for clothes, but worry what people will think of your sartorial choices? Now some real time fashion feedback has arrived in Brazil via Facebook.

Retailer C&A has started a marketing push there that marries online groupthink with real-world decision making. Called FashionLike, it works like this: Whenever sometime Likes a clothing item online at C&A Brasil‘s site, that thumbs-up is tallied on a screen embedded in clothes hangers on the store’s physical racks.

Shoppers can then consider that input as they browse the store aisles. Do you take the popular shirt with more than 1,000 likes, or go under-the-radar and pick the one with just a couple hundred?

C&A is not the first to marry digital and real life in the world of fashion marketing. A Stussy campaign last month promised that a model dressed for winter warmth would shed clothing layers according to how many likes the campaign generated on Facebook.

Others have sought to crowd-source design feedback from the masses online. And Maybelline recently hired the star of the popular “Sh*t Fashion Girls Say” parody video for a stint as the brand’s new spokesmodel.

As many have pointed out, however, there is one major potential stumbling block with C&A’s FashionLike: What if someone just walked into the store and switched items between hangers?

But stumbling blocks or not, C&A’s effort is an interesting intertwining of Facebook and the real world — a trend that will likely become more and more common.

How else would like to see Facebook actions integrated into real life? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, fashion, Tech

HTC Droid Incredible 4G Announced, Headed To Verizon [PICS]

Posted: 07 May 2012 10:14 PM PDT

HTC and Verizon announced the HTC Droid Incredible 4G on Monday, the third phone in the Droid Incredible line.

The HTC Droid Incredible 4G has a 4-inch Super LCD display, and 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. The phone has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera for shooting pics, and can also capture photos while simultaneously shooting high-definition video. A forward-facing camera is also available for video chatting.

The phone will ship running the latest version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich – as well as the latest version of HTC Sense, the software that HTC puts over Android. Both the HTC One S (available on T-Mobile) and HTC One X (available on AT&T) run Ice Cream Sandwich and Sense 4.0 as well.

The One X and S both have unibody designs with no removable battery or expandable memory. The Droid Incredible 4G strays from that trend, giving you the ability to swap out your battery and offering microSD expansion up to 32GB.

While Verizon has announced the phone will be coming to its network "in the coming weeks," it hasn’t announced an actual release date for the handset or any pricing information.

We had a chance to spend a few minutes with the HTC Droid Incredible 4G at a Verizon event on Monday evening. Check out the gallery below for some pictures of the handset, and let us know what you think about the phone in the comments.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: android, htc, HTC Droid Incredible 4G, ice cream sandwich

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Samsung Focus 2: Samsung’s First LTE Windows Phone [PICS]

Posted: 07 May 2012 09:13 PM PDT

Samsung got official with the Samsung Focus 2 Monday, the third Windows Phone smartphone on its 4G LTE network.

"Samsung is the unmatched leader in offering smartphones across a variety of platforms and the Focus 2 is a powerful example of our continued commitment to Windows Phone," said Dale Sohn, president of Samsung Mobile. "As our first 4G LTE Windows Phone, the Focus 2 is a fast and versatile device for productivity, entertainment and social networking."

The Focus 2 follows in the footsteps of the Focus, Focus Flash, and Focus S. The handset has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, and a 5-megapixel camera that is also capable of shooting 720p HD video. The handset also has forward-facing VGA camera for video chatting.

"AT&T offers our customers the broadest Windows Phone portfolio of any carrier, with three 4G LTE Windows Phones – the only 4G LTE Windows Phones in the U.S. – now at a variety of price points and form factors," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president, Devices, AT&T Mobility. "The Samsung Focus 2 brings the people-first Windows Phone interface together with AT&T's fast 4G LTE network for an unbeatable experience."

We had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with the Focus 2 at an AT&T event at CTIA. First impressions? While we couldn’t recommend the Focus 2 over the Lumia 900 (which is currently selling for the same price point), the lightweight handset is priced right at $50 for entry-level smartphone buyers who might want to give Windows Phone a try.

The Focus S will be available on May 20 from AT&T.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: att, CTIA 2012, Focus 2, samsung, windows phone

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Social Platform For Doodles Pushes Bounds of Web Creativity

Posted: 07 May 2012 09:01 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

LOST Doodle from Doodle.lyName: Doodle.ly

Quick Pitch: Doodle.ly is a creative social platform for doodlers. Hand-drawn masterpieces created on Doodle.ly can be shared to social networks.

Genius Idea: Doodle.ly artists can draw straight on the website or sketch using the Doodle.ly iPad app.

For Doodle.ly co-creators Evan Vogel and Darren Paul, the social platform they dreamed up and launched in July 2011 — is the place for innovation, creativity and inspiration on the web.

The latest user-submitted drawings include doodles of bright flowers, dinosaurs and detailed sketches paying homage to Beastie Boys Rapper MCA, who died last Friday. The current number of doodles on the site stands at 32,000 — and counting.

Doodle.ly is a web application and iPad app that lets users draw whatever they want and effortlessly share creations to the web. It takes under a minute for someone with a Twitter and Facebook to sign into Doodle.ly as a new user. That’s when the magic happens. There are different pen tools and colors, all free to use, so the boundaries are endless.

Once the drawing, sketch or scribble is complete, doodles are shared on Twitter or Facebook automatically. The Doodle.ly team is working on building untethered account log-ins — to stop forced sharing. But for now, the world gets to experience all doodles created on Doodle.ly.

Vogel and Paul say they see most of the doodles that come through. These startup guys have high standards for their “highly skilled” userbase.

“We want to see the next Radiohead album or Time magazine cover created by doodlers,” Vogel told Mashable.

An application update released on Tuesday is intended to make the social platform more interactive. New features include a “like button” on every doodle. Plus, a resulting “popular section” for trending images.

These social features were inspired by Instagram’s internal system of “likes” and comments for the app’s filtered square images. There’s instant gratification in “likes,” Paul says.

Face Doodle from Doodle.ly

“This is really meant to be fun,” Paul says. “The new features we are launching are socialization features. What the ‘like’ button does is take the app to the next level. You can like the doodle either by clicking the ‘like’ button or by double tapping the doodle. This allows the cream to rise to the top.”

The social platform is meant to be playful and positive. The hand-drawn aspect of this medium is special, says the creators.

“We can see people around the world using this as a way to share a love note to a loved one, wish someone condolences or just to doodle a creative idea,” Paul says.

Marketing teams are taking advantage of Doodle.ly’s simple drawing interface and sharing aspects. NHL team, the New Jersey Devils, recently used Doodle.ly on Fan Appreciation Night as a crowd-sourcing device. Hockey fans were asked to sketch a team-inspired doodle to feature on 17,000 Rally Rags for the first home game of the playoffs. After 10,000 votes were cast, the fan-submitted doodle was announced.

The Doodle.ly team says the social platform of doodles is opening up new avenues of marketing and reaching consumers.

The team, however, says they are currently not focused on monetization or partnerships. For now, the team is busy beefing up its product and working on releasing its API. Projects they have seen come out of their privately released API include a tool for collaborative doodles and a screen saver app.

“We really want this to be a worldwide platform that is ubiquitous and can live out potential we believe it has,” Paul said.

Are you a fan of web-based doodling? Tell us in the comments if this is a social platform you would use.

Images courtesy of Doodle.ly

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, Business, Facebook, Social Media, social networking, Startups, Twitter

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20 TV Shows With the Most Social Media Buzz This Week [CHART]

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:44 PM PDT

Question: Do the NBA playoffs count as reality television? Based on this data, it would seem so. All eight of the games made this week’s social TV charts, among shows like American Idol, The Voice and Bad Girls Club. What a mix.

As round one of the basketball playoffs draws to a close, fans are only amping up their social media discussions. The Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets series, in particular, led the way. Perhaps that’s because 79% of Lakers social media activity happens on Twitter, the most of any team in the tournament. And both Lakers and Nuggets fan bases have relatively high female participation on social media (17% and 15%, respectively). By this point, we all know that women are more likely to engage with social media than men.

SEE ALSO: NBA Steps Up Its Social Game for Playoffs

The data is compliments of our friends at Trendrr, who measure specific TV show activity (mentions, likes, check-ins) across Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue and Miso. To see daily rankings, check out Trendrr.TV.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, subjug

More About: infographics, Social Media, social tv, social tv charts, Trendrr, TV

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‘The Avengers’ Twitter Roundup [CHARTS]

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:22 PM PDT

After a record weekend at the box office in which it posted more than $200 million in domestic gross revenue, the cast and crew of Marvel’s The Avengers probably doesn’t need another shot of good news. But here’s one more anyway: The film generated a barrage of Twitter buzz, and nearly all of it was positive.

Social analytics firm Topsy tracked the Twitter chatter, and found that Avengers-related tweets were 83% positive or neutral over the past 30 days, with just 17% of messages belying negative sentiment. The movie generated 2.3 million topical mentions and retweets between last Thursday and this Monday, according to Topsy.

Topsy rates whether reactions to events were positive or negative on Twitter using a “sentiment score.” Obviously, you want to be on the high side of zero, and events with an overall positive reaction typically trend around a score of 2 or 3. But a look at this chart shows The Avengers drew a particularly super reaction from tweeters:

Online conversation slowly increased over the past month and peaked last Friday, when the movie made its worldwide premiere. That day there were more than 74,000 Twitter mentions of the word “Avengers,” not including retweets or related terms, according to Topsy. This chart shows how the buzz grew from April 7 through May 7:

It looks like the The Avengers‘ huge marketing push paid off with a very upbeat public reception to the film. Pre-release marketing efforts included an augmented reality smartphone app and a Facebook game featuring movie-specific characters. In March, a trailer for the film broke iTunes viewing records.

But not everyone was pleased with the film’s smashing box office debut. On Sunday, after the record setting number was announced, one bitter Twitter user posted this message:

Did you see The Avengers? Did you like it? Did you tweet about? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Film, the avengers, topsy, Twitter

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Social Media Campaign Challenges You to Live on $1.50 of Food Per Day

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:59 PM PDT

Live Below the Line, a social media campaign, is challenging you to live five days spending $1.50 or less on food and drink.

The $1.50 benchmark for the campaign comes from the amount on money 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty spend each day on food. Live Below the Line, which hopes to change the way people think about poverty, runs between May 7 through 11.

“The intention is to increase awareness that will drive action to support poverty,” Michael Trainer, U.S. country director for the Global Poverty Project, told Mashable.

If that sounds impossible to you, Live Below the Line is suggesting some foods and meals, such as oatmeal, coffee, rice and beans, which will fit into the $1.50 budget. Even if you can’t participate, you can still join in the conversation using the hashtag #belowtheline.

“We’re trying to make this incorporate online activism with an offline experience,” Trainer says. “The engineering of this is intended to be social — pooling your resources and sharing your experiences — you can afford more food if you join together with friends.”

One part of the campaign called Come Dine Below the Line encourages people to host their friends for a dinner party and serve a meal worth 50 cents per person. You can share photos of your 50 cent per person meals with the hashtag #dinebelowtheline.

Live Below the Line started in New Zealand four years ago, spread to the UK the following year and to the U.S. the year after that.

Do you think you could live on $1.50 worth of food per day?

More About: poverty, Social Good

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Earn a Spot on ‘America’s Got Talent’ With a YouTube Submission

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:18 PM PDT

Televised talent show America’s Got Talent returns May 14 for season 7 and it’s again letting skilled fans audition via YouTube submissions.

This online component of AGT began in 2010 and spawned 10-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. She had previously unsuccessfully auditioned twice before earning a slot on the show thanks to her operatic YouTube entry. Evancho finished as runner-up that season.

This year, people living in the U.S. have until June 1 to woo producers, who will handpick 20 YouTube acts for a public vote. The top voted performer makes it into the TV show’s quarterfinals. Eleven other YouTube acts will compete in a live show in August for places in the semifinals.

Those acts will then face judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne, and battle for the $1 million prize against acts that advanced from the early rounds of AGT.

People can submit a video audition on the show’s app (for Android and iPhone), YouTube channel, NBC page or Facebook page.

For a sampling of what people have submitted in the past, here are last season’s top 12 acts that came out of the YouTube contest:

Matt Wilhelm

Matt Wilhelm, a BMX racer from Chicago, was voted number one by fans.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: america's got talent, Entertainment, nbc, social tv, YouTube

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High School Principal Accused of ‘Spying’ on Facebook, Resigns [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 May 2012 06:55 PM PDT

It’s a cardinal rule among educators: Interacting with students on social media, if it is allowed, requires caution and the same amount of professionalism that would be conducted offline in a classroom setting. But what happens when a teacher breaks this rule?

That’s the unsettling situation the community of Clayton, Missouri, is facing after several students and parents accepted a Facebook friendship request from “Suzy Harriston.” The mysterious figure — who had a nondescript Facebook profile photo and more than 300 friends, many of them from Clayton High School — is said to have actually been the school’s principal.

“Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal,” wrote 2011 graduate Chase Haslett on Facebook.

Haslett’s post on April 5 warranted several reactions, including the obvious: “How do you know?”

Haslett’s response: “Can’t say who told me.”

After Haslett’s allegation four weeks ago — which has since been removed from Facebook — Suzy Harriston’s profile mysteriously disappeared. And the district announced that the high school principal, Louise Losos, would begin a leave of absence.

“This is both a personal issue for Louise and a personnel matter for the district,” Chris Tennill, chief communications officer for the School District of Clayton, wrote in an email. “As this involves personnel, we are not able to provide any additional details at this time.”

This past Friday, Losos officially resigned from her post as principal.

The school district has remained silent about Losos’ leave of absence and resignation, and Tennill has said the district will not elaborate on the nature of Losos’ social media activity — or whether she was the person behind Suzy Harriston’s account.

Clayton’s official policy regarding electronic communication between students and staff is that staff must “maintain professional boundaries,” and communication should be for “educational purposes.”

Of course, if Suzy Harriston was in fact Louise Losos, none of these requirements were met — and the students didn’t know they had given a school official insight into their online activities on Facebook.

The Clayton case is a reminder of how blurry the line is for educators between their professional role and what they do online during after-school hours — there is currently is no clear rule stating how exactly schools can use social media, or whether teachers should monitor students' after-school activities. In Seattle, for example, teachers have the right to punish students for what they say on social media during non-school hours. In 2009, high school administrators in Mississippi forced a cheerleader to reveal her Facebook password and later punished her over what they found in her account.

Most recently, in New York City, the Department of Education banned student-teacher interactions on social media. This was also the case in Missouri until backlash against the law prompted a repeal. Now in Missouri, districts preside over these policy decisions.

The role of teachers online is not the only issue the Clayton case has raised. The concern that the principal was “spying” on students through Facebook is yet another warning for us to control our privacy online. After all, privacy advocates say you should never friend or accept the friendship request of someone you don’t know.

What do you think should be the role of teachers online? Should they be allowed to “supervise” students’ Facebook activities after-school hours? Sound off in the comments.

More About: education, Facebook, online privacy

Hospital to Live Tweet Brain Surgery, Put Pics on Pinterest

Posted: 07 May 2012 06:01 PM PDT

Several weeks after making history with the world’s first live-tweeted open heart surgery, Houston’s Memorial Hermann hospital is dusting off its social media chops again.

The plan this time? To live tweet a brain operation performed by one of the world’s foremost neurosurgeons.

Live social media coverage from the hospital’s in-house team will begin Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. EST. The hospital’s Twitter page, @houstonhospital, will relay the operation’s preparation, play-by-play and wrap up over the next four hours while using the hashtag #MHbrain. The first actual incision is scheduled for 10 a.m. EST.

The operation is called a brain tumor resection. It’s designed to remove a tumor to prevent seizures. It will be performed by Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon who helped lead the team that treated former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head in 2011.

A two-inch by two-inch window will be cut in the skull of the patient, who is a young woman, Dr. Kim told Mashable in an interview. The window will leave her brain exposed for between one and one-and-a-half hours. That will give Dr. Kim access to find and remove the tumor, which he says is probably located between two and three centimeters beneath the brain’s surface.

“What will come out of this is a detailed, real-time sequence of what happens in a brain surgery through all the stages from preparation, to shaving the hair, to making the incision, to draping,” Dr. Kim says. “People are very anxious and want to know what goes on in a brain surgery like this.”

While Dr. Kim works in the operating room, a team outside the room will work the social platforms. A brain tumor specialist will be present to help answer questions from the digital audience via Twitter. But the operation will expand to other social networks too.

Video clips from inside the operating room will be posted to YouTube, and photos shared on Pinterest. Storify compilations will recap each hour of the broadcast.

Natalie Camarata, Memorial Hermann’s digital marketing manager, told Mashable the plan to live tweet the operation was hatched following the open-heart surgery, which was viewed an estimated 125 million times through Twitter, Storify and media coverage.

SEE ALSO: Behind the Scenes of the World's First Live-Tweeted Open-Heart Surgery

“We had a lot of success with the open-heart surgery and saw there was a lot of interest in seeing what goes into something that’s an everyday thing for some people,” Camarata says.

Memorial Hermann’s open-heart surgery live tweet was a world first, although other hospitals have used to Twitter to cover different operations before, including a few brain surgeries. But Camarata and Dr. Kim say Memorial Hermann‘s social broadcast will break new ground in brain surgery live tweets by sharing the feed from Dr. Kim’s fiber optic microscope to give viewers a new level of access and understanding.

“One neat thing about this is we should be able to get actual images of the brain surface itself,” Dr. Kim says. “Hopefully you’ll see video of the brain actually pulsating with heartbeats.”

Do you think this is a good use of social media? Will you follow along Wednesday morning? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy Memorial Hermann Healthcare System

More About: Twitter

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Pirates Off Silicon Valley! 133 Startups to Live on This Rogue Boat [PICS]

Posted: 07 May 2012 05:31 PM PDT

If you float it, they will come.

That’s the lesson of Blueseed, a brave new utopia for startups that will be anchored in international waters, 12 miles off the coast of the San Francisco peninsula — aka Silicon Valley — sometime in the second half of 2013. The company calls its floating campus the “Googleplex of the sea.”

Blueseed is funded by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. Famous for his libertarian views, Thiel is eager to create more havens for startups that are free from all government regulation — indeed, from all laws. (To that end, he has also pledged $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute.)

As laughable as it may sound to some, startups are flocking to fulfill Thiel’s vision. Blueseed has released the details of a survey on its website, which shows 133 international startups willing and eager to get on board. A plurality are from the US, but there’s also a lot of interest from India, Australia, Canada, Europe and practically every other area of the world:

What’s the draw? Well, partly, it’s the fact that no U.S. passport or visa would be required to live and work on board the vessel. (If Blueseed is successful, this could be one way around the dearth of H1-B visas for engineers, something which is much lamented in the tech world.)

Mostly, according to Blueseed’s survey, it’s the proximity to Silicon Valley, less than half an hour away by helicopter or somewhat more by shuttle boat and bus. But we wonder if the startup founders have been also tempted by the Googleplex-like array of amenities promised: high-speed wifi across the ship, 24-hour cafes, a full-service gym, concierge, medical services and (strangely enough for a libertarian venture) a post office.

Blueseed is still very much in the concept stage. Check out the pictures below for renderings of various designs the company is considering, and let us know in the comments: would you live and work here?

Here Be Libertarians

X marks the spot in international waters where Blueseed intends to moor itself.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: blueseed, googleplex, peter thiel, trending

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Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ Cracks YouTube’s All-Time Top 30

Posted: 07 May 2012 04:59 PM PDT

Global smash hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” is closing in on 200 million YouTube views this week, making it one of the most-viewed clips ever on the 7-year-old platform.

With 198 million views, the video from Belgian-Australian singer Gotye featuring Kimbra ranks No. 29, behind the likes of Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, other artists and a few non-music videos (such as “Charlie bit my finger“).

“Somebody That I Used to Know” — about memories of past relationships and breakups — premiered in July 2011 and swiftly became a chart-topper in Australia before soaring to No. 1 in more than a dozen countries. Only last month did the song claim the coveted crown on Billboards Hot 100 charts in the U.S.

The achievement came after American Idol, Glee and The Voice aired covers of the song (watch them below) in April. That month Gotye and Kimbra also performed the track on Saturday Night Live.

The single had already been high on the U.S. chart, but the mainstream appearances budged it to the top. Many Americans credit a band called Walk Off the Earth for putting the song on their radar. In January, Walk Off the Earth uploaded to YouTube a “Somebody That I Used to Know” cover, which now has 103 million views.

SEE ALSO: 'Eat It Don't Tweet It' Music Video Mocks Food Pornographers [VIDEO]

Flip through this gallery to hear the original, versions mentioned above, parodies and covers from YouTube heavyweights Ingrid Michaelson, PS22 Chorus, Boyce Avenue, Freak Morice, Peter Hollens and more.

Original by Gotye featuring Kimbra

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Music, trending, viral videos, YouTube

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ElectNext Web Startup Is Making Politics Personal

Posted: 07 May 2012 03:57 PM PDT

Have you ever entered a voting booth on Election Day only to feel hopelessly lost in a sea of electoral choices?

ElectNext, a new startup, is aiming to help fix that by helping you choose the politicians that most closely reflect your own views — think of it, says the creator, as online dating for politics.

The idea is simple: First, users are asked to pick three issues that are most important to them. Choices include immigration, abortion, foreign policy and nine other categories. Next, users have to answer at least 10 additional questions to find their political matches — the more questions answered, the more accurate the results.

As a demonstration, this writer answered questions the way a Libertarian voter might — and indeed, Ron Paul was the top result (ElectNext also shows results for Congressional races).

Users can dive into a comparison of their results with various politicians, allowing them to better understand why they match up with certain candidates. The site also has a social element — users can see exactly where politicians stand on certain issues and offer an opinion of their own in agreement or disapproval. With each survey question also comes an invitation for users to leave an argument for one stance or another.

Once a user has his or her results, he or she can donate or sign up to volunteer for the candidate directly from ElectNext.

ElectNext is upfront and transparent about its data sources, arrogating information from news reports, interest groups and direct quotes. Additionally, the entire ElectNext staff has put their personal results on the site so users know their ideology (serendipitously, there’s a fairly even mixture of viewpoints on the team).

The site is the brainchild of Keya Dannenbaum, a Fulbright scholar who holds an M.A. in Political Science from Princeton University and previously worked for Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign. After the Clinton campaign, Dannenbaum was hired on with local campaigns in Connecticut.

It was the comparison between national-level and local work that helped Dannenbaum find the inspiration for ElectNext. In local elections, said Dannenbaum, lie the “real tangible issues that local leaders are responsible for,” but she added that local elections “are based on a handful of votes” because so few people participate.

“I thought, ‘my gosh, here, where it matters most is exactly where voters are checking out,’” said Dannenbaum.

That’s where Dannenbaum’s goal lies. Not satisfied with the 4,500 politician profiles already on ElectNext, Dannenbaum wants to build out the site to cover every election happening across the country — perhaps even the world.

“Our vision is to produce a useful way for any voter in any election in U.S. and elsewhere to vote in an informed way all the way down their ballot,” she said.

More than 55,000 people have visited ElectNext over the past three months. To Dannenbaum, that’s a sign that the engines can be set to full steam ahead.

“It’s a really convincing sign that we can take this tool that is fun and useful at three federal levels,” she said.

Dannenbaum’s ultimate goal is to build a tool that increases voter participation across the U.S. That’s a difficult statistic to measure, especially because the site is so new — but it’s certainly on her mind.

“One thing we'd like to do is measure if people using our platform are voting at significantly higher levels,” she said. “That would be a good indictation that this is providing a service that engages people to vote.”

Dannenbaum is proud of the site her team has built.

“It's been so fun to have this idea, watch it grow and really see what this could be in the big picture,” she said. “I think we're on to something.”

Would you use a site such as ElectNext to help you make your voting decisions? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sjlocke

More About: Politics, Startups, US

MasterCard Unveils PayPass Wallet Services, A New Way To Pay

Posted: 07 May 2012 03:30 PM PDT

MasterCard announced PayPass Wallet Services Monday, a new global offering that makes it easier and faster for customers to make purchases in stores and online, by allowing those purchases to be made with a single click or tap.

"We think of MasterCard’s mission as using technology to make payments safer, simpler, smarter and this is just one of the ways we’re progressing against that mission" Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments office, MasterCard told Mashable.

"We realize that when it comes to payments, no single wallet will rule them all. PayPass Wallet Services simplifies the shopping experience while providing flexibility and choice to merchants, banks and consumers," says McLaughlin.

PayPass Wallet Services has three components: PayPass Acceptance Network, PayPass Wallet and PayPass API which together are designed to streamline your shopping experience no matter how you shop.

PayPass Acceptance Network: The PayPass acceptance network includes both online and contactless payments, and gives merchants a consistent way to accept electronics payments across multiple channels. NFC payments can be made in-store by tapping your mobile phone, and a new PayPass online element lets you check out at a retailer by clicking a PayPass button — automatically providing your shipping and payment information to a retailer without having to fill that information out each time you pay.

PayPass Wallet: PayPass wallet enables banks, merchants and partners to white label their own wallets. Consumers can store payment and shipping information in one secure place including American Express, Discover, Visa and other branded credit, debit and prepaid cards.

PayPass API: The PayPass API allows partners to connect their own wallets into the PayPass network, and lets those partners user MasterCard's check-out, fraud detection and authentication services to allow their customers to make purchases wherever PayPass is accepted.

MasterCard will make PayPass Wallet Services available to partners in the third quarter of 2012, initially in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia later including other countries.

MasterCard’s first partners for the project include big names like American Airlines and Barnes & Noble. American will be integrating the PayPass Wallet into its mobile application, and Barnes & Noble will be including the PayPass online checkout button on its website.

"Consumers are at a pivotal point now where smartphone adoption has exploded and well over 50 percent of Americans own one," says Marc Parish, vice president of retention and loyalty marketing for Barnes & Noble. "The technology that will allow customers to make mobile payments at the point of sale has already begun to make a different, and Barnes & Noble is proud to be leading retail in this technology shift"

Other partners include Jagex, JB Hi-Fi, MLB Advanced Media (MLB.com), Newegg, Runningshoes.com, TigerDirect.com and Wine Enthusiast Companies. MasterCard is also working with financial institutions such as Citibank, Fifth Third Bank, and National Bank of Canada. A number of technology partners are also already on board.

"MasterCard’s PayPass Wallet Services has the potential to streamline the payment process for consumers, whether they’re online or offline." Mark Hung Research Director, Wireless at Garner told Mashable.

"The open nature of the PayPass Wallet looks promising: besides allowing competitors’ offerings to reside in the wallet (e.g., Visa, Amex, and Discover), the PayPass API allows other digital wallets to connect to MasterCard’s acceptance network as well," says Hung. "It will be interesting to see when the full product will be launched, as well as the breadth of its partners that will be supporting this new initiative."

What do you think about MasterCard’s new PayPass Wallet services? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: mastercard, mobile payment, trending

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4 Tips For Gamifying Your Marketing Plan

Posted: 07 May 2012 03:07 PM PDT

Darren Steele is the strategic director of Mindspace, and co-author of the gamification book, "I'll Eat this Cricket for a Cricket Badge." Darren can be reached at darren@mindspace.net.

The hype around gamification is fairly new, but the idea has been around for some time. In fact, badges and leader boards could be considered the new sweepstakes and loyalty rewards. And gamification is not just for major consumer brands and their tech-savvy 18-to-34-year-old demographic. There are examples where gamification in marketing has worked spectacularly for 50-year-old rural ranchers. In other words, any audience is up for grabs.

SEE ALSO: Why Gamification Can't Be Stopped

That said, marketers can’t just add a Groupon-style approach to something and think it’s gamified. If you're thinking about giving gamification a test run, here are four steps to help you get it right with your next marketing campaign.

1. Decide on the Right Opacity

Do you want this to actually feel like a game for your customers or do you want game mechanics buried deep enough that your target may not realize why the experience is so compelling? Many game mechanics are those hidden hooks in video games that tap into psychological triggers that drive behavior. You can apply these same hooks to a marketing campaign for any audience, whether they are into traditional video games or not. If you're still scratching your head, or if you work for an organization that doesn't do change well, consider trying gamification lite.

This might mean starting with an actual branded game on your Facebook page. You'll eventually want to graduate from simple games with badges as prizes to something deeper, but it's a good way to start measuring the effectiveness of gamification on your audience. You can then show proof of concept to anyone at your company who’s on the fence. Most web development companies now are able to create simple gaming apps for social media, and this can be a relatively low-cost campaign. Just set your expectations accordingly.

2. Break Up Information Into Smaller Pieces

The way complex games draw you into an experience without a 50-page manual is by giving you the minimal amount of information you need to proceed to the next clear step. Marketers could apply this to their over-done emails or portal-heavy websites by giving consumers only a bite-sized amount of information. This is the gaming mechanic known as cascading information theory.

One place to test this is YouTube. YouTube stats don't lie. Once your video crosses the sixty-second mark, drop off is significant. Try taking the last video you created and editing it into smaller pieces. Then distribute those sections through your normal channels, and measure. Did viewers drop off before it finished? When? Did they move on to the next video? At what rate? You can also apply this to blog posts; break up one long blog into a four-part series with a call to action or reward at the bottom of each one. The beauty of this mechanic is that it's very easy to measure, and because you're dealing with smaller pieces of information, you can tweak often and easily.

3. Do Something With Likes and Followers

Social media hit like a tidal wave a few years back and left virtually every business trying to quickly figure out how to leverage new tools before getting left behind. Now that the hype has subsided, brands are saying, "I accomplished my goal of 100,000 Facebook likes. Now what?"

When applying gamification to social media, marketers shouldn't limit themselves to badges and leader boards (at least not after they've tried it and see minor success). At more sophisticated levels of gamification you can actually use social channels as the starting point to realize certain desired behaviors from consumers. This might include opting into email or making a purchase.

As a starting point, experiment with a creative dashboard that rewards desired social and purchase behaviors. This can be a more transparent way to interact with your target and provide them with recognition, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and a fun form of feedback. Again, this doesn't have to be expensive or take a long time to implement, and it's a great way to start taking social followers and getting them into your funnel.

4. Match Incentives With Engagement

Games and research into human psychology have taught us that people are happier when they earn something, rather than when it is given to them. Instead of giving your customers rewards, make them earn them. The more they engage, the bigger the rewards. For instance, watching a one-minute video earns them a 5% discount you might have given away without requiring any action. Following the call to action at the end of the video earns them a 10% discount. If you combine these rewards with the creative dashboard example above, you have introduced a meta-game. A meta-game is an umbrella that ties mini-games or game mechanics together.

So instead of exchanging a white paper for an email address in isolation, consider asking for three behaviors, having three rewards, and measuring them all in a dashboard featured prominently on the site. This also works beautifully with customer retention and loyalty campaigns. As your gamification gets more sophisticated, you can introduce economies, where your target earns points, coins, or some other currency by performing desired behaviors. Then let them use that currency to unlock a variety of rewards.

A note before you jump into the proverbial gamification waters: Get past the common myths and know what success will look like for your company. Gamification isn't just video games with your logo in the corner, and it isn't just for people who play games. Like any good marketing effort, define behaviors you want to see from customers, and the measurable end result. Happy playing!

More About: Advertising, contributor, features, gamification, online marketing, Social Media

MasterCard Unveils ‘The Future of Payments’ [LIVE]

Posted: 07 May 2012 02:50 PM PDT

MasterCard is unveiling what it calls "the future of payments for consumers, merchants and partners" at the CTIA Wireless conference in New Orleans Monday. We’re streaming the whole thing live exclusively on Mashable starting at 6:00 p.m. EST, 3:00 p.m. PST.

Since the conference is held by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), it’s a good bet MasterCard’s announcement about the future of payments will have focus on its mobile strategy.

Earlier Monday, MasterCard unveiled its Mobile Payments Readiness Index (MPRI), an analysis of 34 countries and their readiness to use mobile payments. The index identified Singapore, Canada, the United States, Kenya and South Korea as the most prepared markets.

MasterCard also recently unveiled a new brand identifier called "MasterCard PayPass Ready" that certifies several NFC-capable phones including the LG Viper, HTC One X, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as tested and certified by MasterCard for use with its PayPass technology.

Near-Field Communication (NFC) allows data to be transferred by tapping a phone on the surface. In the case of mobile payments, payments can be made by tapping your NFC-capable phone at a merchant rather than handing over your credit card.

SEE ALSO: Near Field Communication: A Quick Guide To The Future Of Mobile

Phones that have received the “PayPass Ready” certification may be branded as such via a sticker or marking on the device’s packaging. The certification may also be mentioned in advertising materials.

What do you think MasterCard has planned? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: CTIA 2012, mastercard, mobile payments

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35 Million Users Later, Twitpic Launches its First App

Posted: 07 May 2012 02:34 PM PDT

Twitpic, a service that puts photos on Twitter before Twitter itself let you do that, launched its first mobile app on Monday.

The free iPhone app lets users edit photos and add filters before posting them to Twitter. Twitpic founder Noah Everett says that a similar Android app will be released within the next month.

Founded in 2008, Twitpic provides the API that powers photo sharing in apps like Tweetbot. Twitter launched its own photo-sharing service last year with Photobucket as its hosting partner, but sharing via Twitpic is still an option in its mobile apps.

Even though Twitter’s native service has unsurprisingly eclipsed Twitpic, Everett says the app has more than 35 million users on third-party devices.

Photo-sharing app Instagram, which was recently acquired by Facebook, has about 50 million users.

So why is Twitpic launching its own app now? Everett says it’s not to make his company a better acquisition target for Twitter, which reportedly wanted to buy Instagram before Facebook made its $1 billion deal.

“Our goal is just to provide the best possible product for our users,” he says. “As far as trying to position ourselves for acquisition by any particular service, that’s not our focus.”

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, vesilvio‬.

More About: instagram, twitpic, Twitter

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Mashable Is Heading to Brazil for Rio+Social

Posted: 07 May 2012 02:24 PM PDT

Mashable is thrilled to announce that we’ll be co-hosting Rio+Social on June 19, during the historic UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20.

Rio+Social, a one-day event in Rio de Janeiro, will explore how social media and technology can play a pivotal role in creating sustainable solutions for the future of the planet. The day will be an opportunity to push the conversations of government leaders being held at Rio+20 beyond the UN conference to a digitally connected audience around the world.

When the UN met in Rio for the first Earth Summit 20 years ago, technology was hardly a part of the development conversation. Today, we know digital innovation can be used for anything from ending energy poverty to improving education.

The same founders of the annual Social Good Summit are organizing Rio+Social: the United Nations Foundation, Mashable and the 92nd Street Y. Rio+Social will also be made possible with generous support and innovative leadership from Ericsson, Energias de Portugal and LiveAD.

We can’t wait to meet our community in Brazil at our first event — and the first event of its kind — in South America. If you can’t make it to Brazil, Rio+Social promises to provide opportunities for citizens and leaders around the world to jointly find ways to harness the power of social media and technology to shape the future we all wish to see. You can join the Rio+Social conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

The following speakers will share their insights on leveraging digital tools for social good. Stay turned for more exciting updates on speakers and programming. We’ll be opening up registration soon!

  • Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO, Mashable
  • Ted Turner, founder and chairman, UN Foundation
  • Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson
  • Leonardo Tristao, business director, Facebook Latin America
  • Fabien Cousteau, ocean explorer and founder, Plant a Fish
  • Luciano Huck, TV host and president, Instituto Criar de TV, Cinema e Novas Mídias
  • Florian Jürgs, co-founder and CEO, and Thorsten König, co-founder and CMO, KUULUU
  • António Mexia, CEO, EDP
  • Maura O'Neill, chief innovation officer, USAID
  • René Silva, founder, Voz das Comunidades
  • Fabio Barbosa, CEO, Abril Group
  • Dr. Gro Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway, director-deneral emeritus, World Health Organization

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JohanSjolander

More About: environment, Events, Rio plus social, Social Good, sustainability, United Nations

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XKCD Sing-Along: Every Major’s Terrible

Posted: 07 May 2012 02:01 PM PDT

It’s college graduation season, which means that hordes of freshly minted youngsters are now entering the real world, and many have no exact future plans in sight.

The web comic XKCD’s author Randall Munroe posted a comic today that paints quite a bleak picture for college graduates.

Given the nature of the comic, a YouTube response was published quickly by a man named David Dalrymple.


XKCD Every Majors Terrible

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, hakusan

More About: comic, viral, YouTube

Meet the 19-Year-Old Pinterest Veteran Who Just Got $7 Million Funding

Posted: 07 May 2012 01:41 PM PDT

Sahil Lavingia is a great believer in learning by doing. He quit college after a semester, reasoning that he “could save three and a half years of my time” by leaving to pursue his goal of working for a real company.

That company turned out to be Pinterest, the social media juggernaut that got 104 million visits in March, according to Experian Hitwise, making it arguably the world’s number three social network. Lavingia left before Pinterest really took off, but he says he doesn’t regret it. After all, he really wanted to be CEO, and the only way to do that was to start his own company. “I’m really happy,” he tells Mashable. “Building a company is better than working for someone else.”

Lavingia’s new company is Gumroad, a startup that aims to do for online payments what Twitter did for blogging — provide a common means of distribution. Gumroad’s twist is that it connects prospective buyers and sellers across social media networks. As the video below explains, if you sign up for Gumroad, you can easily sell your stuff to people who follow you on Twitter or to your Facebook friends via a Gumroad link. Seth Goldstein, the chairman of Turntable.fm calls it a “PayPal for the social web.”

The idea’s not unprecedented. You can do the same thing via eBay, of course, but Gumroad “is a lot faster, simpler, and cheaper,” Lavingia says. The company takes a 5% cut of sales plus $0.25 compared to eBay’s 9% plus insertion fees (which run from $0.10 to $2.) Five percent is also way less than Amazon’s 50% cut and iTunes’s 30% cut.

A few investors think Lavingia is onto something. SV Angel, Accel Partners and Lowercase Capital gave Gumroad $1.1 million in funding late last year. On Monday, the company announced it got another $7 million round led Mike Abbott, former Twitter engineering head and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Not bad for a guy who just started coding four years ago, when he was 15. “I started designing five or six years ago, but got bored making pretty pictures,” says Lavingia. The teen fell in love with iOS and eventually caught the attention Goldstein, who commissioned Lavingia to create the company’s iPhone app. “He’s a great coder, thoughtful, strategic,” says Goldstein. “I tried to hire him, but he wanted to start his own company.”

Now a teen CEO, Lavingia is following in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg, who persuaded venture capitalists to invest in Facebook when he was 20, David Karp, who launched Tumblr at 20, and Brian Wong, who became CEO of Kiip at 19.

The latter may have been the youngest person to ever receive money from a venture capital firm, according to reports at the time. Lavingia may not have broken the record, but he’s done something else: Taken himself up on a dare to run his own company. Says Lavingia: “I wanted to see if I could do it. This was the best way to find out.”

More About: Gumroad, online commerce, Startups, trending

‘Trick Shot Quarterback:’ From YouTube Sensation to NFL Tryout [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 May 2012 01:27 PM PDT

Alex Tanney became a viral video star when a montage of him completing a series of jaw dropping — if impractical — football throws hit YouTube. Nearly 2 million views later, he’s getting a shot at the NFL after being invited to a Buffalo Bills offseason minicamp.

Tanney’s YouTube video, called “Trick Shot Quarterback,” shows him making dozens of amazing passes — into a moving pickup truck bed from a second-story window, off the bounce into a far away trash can and off props into basketball hoops, for example. The video, embedded below, has gained about 1.8 million views since it was uploaded in Feb. 2011.

Tanney recently finished his actual playing career at Monmouth College, a tiny Division III school in Illinois. He faced poor competition there but put up strong statistics, setting an NCAA record with 157 career touchdown passes.

Yet his on-field recognition never approached his YouTube fame, and he was not selected in the NFL Draft last month. Tanney says the Bills were among the first teams to contact him following the draft. The team has an open quarterback roster spot behind its starter and primary backup, so he does have a shot at making the team.

SEE ALSO: NFL Free Agents Gain New Power With Social Media

Given Tanney’s accomplishments at Monmouth, it’s likely he could have gotten an NFL look even without his YouTube hit. Of course, the addition of a viral quarterbacking video to his resume couldn’t have hurt either. But Tanney says he’s moved on from his YouTube celebrity.

“We really didn’t expect it to take off like it did. It kind of blew up,” he told the Associated Press. “We had fun with it. It was a good experience. But I kind of think that’s past me. I’m just looking forward to getting my shot in the NFL.”

Do you think Tanney’s YouTube video helped him land a shot at the NFL? Let us know in the comments.

More About: sports, YouTube

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Flip Flops for Good: Kickstarter Company Wants You to Design a Pair

Posted: 07 May 2012 01:10 PM PDT

Vancouver startup FlyingFlips wants to build a community of socially conscious graphic designers.

The ecommerce platform lets shoppers vote for their favorite sandal designs, which they’d like to see become available for retail. The most-popular options will be manufactured and the artists will receive a portion of the sale proceeds.

“We’re trying to build a really good social network of graphic designers,” FlyingFlips designer co-founder Trevor Broad told Mashable. “We call it open source flip flops.”

The site, which is hoping to receive funding from Kickstarter, says its flip flops are eco-friendly, made from 20% to 30% recycled materials, and lets you trade in used pairs.

SEE ALSO: Roozt Is the Etsy for Social Entrepreneurs

Once designers have submitted designs to the FlyingFlips community, the startup encourages them to share their submissions with their social networks to vote.

For each purchase made, FlyingFlips donates one pair of flip flops to a person in need in the developing world, through Soles4Souls and Fundacion A. Jean Brugger.

The Kickstarter campaign, which runs until the end of May, will fund the first run of flip flops and the creation of the online store. The store will launch one week into June, right after the Kickstarter ends.

FlyingFlips hopes to make eight pairs available by June — the two pairs advertised as Kickstarter rewards, five pairs crowd sourced by designers and one blank pair. Though the team was initially split on creating blank flip flops, lacking a crowdsourced design, they ultimately decided more people could join the buy one give one movement, if they offered a blank slate option.

Would you buy a pair of FlyingFlips? Let us know if you would back this project.

Bonus: Crazy Kickstarter Projects

1. Portals

Funded: $1,934

This project uses a box and an old monitor to simulate virtual reality. It is an incredibly cool project, but its Kickstarter backers shouldn't expect anything in return other than a "big happy thank you."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: crowdsourcing, graphic design, kickstarter, Social Good

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4 Mobile Business Applications to Watch

Posted: 07 May 2012 12:58 PM PDT

Layla Revis is vice president of digital influence at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. Her specialties include international affairs, tourism, and multicultural marketing.

With the recent acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, hedging bets on what may be the next application to be acquired for $1 billion is all the rage among geeks. Although most developers are putting emphasis on consumer-facing apps, the app sector with the ability to generate income from acquisition is likely in the business-to-business space.

Social business tools are going to become more popular as tablets and smartphones become the norm at companies and the consumerization of IT is adapted at a rapid pace. And there's no question the market will be huge, what with mobile application downloads approaching 48 billion by 2015. But what business apps are leading the way? Here are four examples of mobile business applications to watch.

1. BoardVantage

BoardVantage is a collaboration app for boards of directors at large companies. It is programmed with extensive security policies and allows a board meeting to take place entirely on an iPad, which stores all related important information in an IT-secure application. The app is a must for CIOs who want to transform their company so that instead of the C-suite using laptops, they are all armed with iPads. Although it's free to download, it requires a subscription to use.

2. IBM bCase

IBM's bCase for IBM Business Partners helps businesses create amazing sales presentations on an iPad. Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for IBM Midmarket, says the app is highly dynamic and can pull in content from a wide variety of sources, allowing for a much more vibrant experience than you get from, say, Microsoft PowerPoint. It's free to download, but requires a password issued by IBM.

3. The Merck Manual

The 100-year-old manual's content has been transferred from book to iPad in both a home and professional edition. The app can be accessed anywhere via wi-fi and allows doctors to find symptom information for patients and email a relevant link to either the patient or a patient's specialist. Robert S. Porter MD, an editor of the app, said, "The Manual has always been highly regarded for its clarity and focus on delivering just the right amount of information. This app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch now provides that information in a convenient form that will make it even more valuable for healthcare professionals on the go."

4. Cisco WebEx

This application allows anyone to join a web conference from an iPad or iPhone. Any number of people can attend these meetings, but a WebEx host account is needed to schedule or host a meeting. The app also allows one to attend a meeting from anywhere in the world and present PowerPoint presentations. It makes the possibility of conferencing from anywhere very simple.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter

More About: Apple iPad, business applications, contributor, features, mobile apps

Jury Issues Partial Verdict in Google-Oracle Trial, Big Questions Still at Stake

Posted: 07 May 2012 12:29 PM PDT


A federal jury has issued a partial verdict in the Oracle/Google lawsuit.

Although the jury found that Google infringed on Oracle’s Java tools, it deadlocked around the question of whether Google proved that its use of Java constituted “fair use.”

Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of the Java programming language and software tools. Oracle acquired Java when it purchased Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Today’s verdict only encompasses the first part of the case — there are two more parts to come. As Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal pointed out last month, nothing less than the future of Android is at stake in this case.

Although Sun open-sourced parts of Java to be used without a licensing agreement, it required a licensing agreement for use with mobile devices. To get around this requirement, Google created its own software that would allow Java execution of Java code on mobile devices, but in such a way that it wasn’t using the traditional Java virtual machines licensed for mobile devices.

The big question for this phase of the trial was whether Google infringed on Oracle’s Java patents and tools and if that infringement was allowed based on rules of fair use.

The jury found that Google did infringe on the use of the tools and APIs held by Oracle, however, it could not come to a decision regarding the fair use claim.

Because the fair use claim is so integral to future aspects of the case, both sides are pushing for more clarification. Google has motioned for a mistrial. Meanwhile, Oracle has motioned for the presiding judge in the case to issue his own verdict. The judge will make his ruling on both matters later in the week.

Oracle hasn’t issued a comment on the ruling, but in a statement to the Mercury News, Google said, “We appreciate the jury’s efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that’s for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle’s other claims.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, maybefalse

More About: android, Google, lawsuits, oracle, patent lawsuit theater, trending

13 Spectacular ‘Supermoon’ Photos From Mashable Readers

Posted: 07 May 2012 12:24 PM PDT

Supermoon from Grand Canyon at Toroweap

Photo taken by: Jason Hines

Click here to view this gallery.

Over the weekend, the moon was not just full, it also got the closest to Earth than it’ll get all year. The result was what some are calling a “supermoon,” a yearly phenomenon that draws out night sky watchers and photographers.

The moon appeared 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an average full moon.

We asked Mashable readers to submit their best picture of the supermoon astronomical event.
We received more than 50 great photo submissions from countries around the world, including Serbia, South Africa, India and New Zealand.

Check out some of the most impressive supermoon photos you sent us.

Were you impressed by the supermoon? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: photography, space, trending

Facebook PAC Gives More Money to Republicans Than to Democrats

Posted: 07 May 2012 12:13 PM PDT

Bucking the tide for technology companies, Facebook’s Political Action Committee FB PAC contributed to slightly more Republican politicians than Democrats during the first quarter of 2012.

Republican members of Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.), were on the receiving end of $65,000 from Facebook’s PAC. Congressional Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the other hand, received slightly less: $53,500.

The minor lean to the right is unusual for a technology company, which tend to favor Democrats. For example, Microsoft has contributed $694,284 to Democrats and $477,706 to Republicans via its PAC this year, while Google has given $101,800 to Democrats and $100,000 to Republicans.

A look at technology companies’ contributions to presidential campaigns reveals a wider split. Microsoft has given $289,088 to President Obama’s re-election effort this year, compared to $71,990 for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Comcast’s contributions offer a similar example: $157,962 to Obama and $13,750 for Romney.

The traditional logic suggests that Democrats are the more technology-friendly of the two major American political parties, but Facebook’s mostly bipartisan congressional contributions could be interpreted as the early sign of a changing tide.

Facebook also gave to several leading members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which oversee the U.S. court system. That may reveal some of Facebook’s political strategy, as it routinely finds itself either on attack or defense in the courtroom.

The disclosure forms also revealed the top contributors to Facebook’s PAC: CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen all chipped in the maximum allowable amount of $5,000.

Does the Democrat-Republican split of Facebook’s PAC surprise you? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: Facebook, Politics, US

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